I’m Kind of a Bad and Boujee Social Activist

I’m struggling, y’all. It’s hard to admit, but I think I’m more materialistic than I would care to believe. I like to think of myself as someone who values people over things, but lately I just can’t help myself. I’m struggling because I want to be bad and boujee while also saving the world from hunger at the same time. As much as I want to find a happy medium of the two extremes, I just don’t think the two mix well. They are like oil and Voss water.

I work for a nonprofit that focuses of the social issue of local hunger, and I truly—from the bottom of my heart—love my job. I’m so proud of the impact we make in our community. I feel like I was created to fight social and systemic injustice and give a voice to those who have been silenced. I rarely just walk by a person down on their luck who is asking for help—I’ve even almost caused a car crash trying to turn around to give a homeless woman my lunch. I donate to other nonprofits and foundations, I gladly volunteer with several organizations, and I’m currently in law school, looking to practice in public interest. I’ve always felt I could use my own privilege to help someone else, and I’ve found little to no joy working in any other industry. But . . . sometimes I just want to be an Instagram model who sells tummy tea and goes to All Star Weekend and turns up with Drake. And I don’t think both people can live inside of me.

It didn’t really dawn on me that I’m living two lives until I wanted to buy a Louis Vuitton Neverfull purse. Of course I wanted a size mm or gm, which would run somewhere between $1200-1500+ (before tax). Yes, just for a purse. And truthfully, it is on the less expensive side of the LV bags for sale. But as I was online browsing, I just thought about how many people could eat for the amount I would pay for that single purse. And then I thought, Maybe I can buy one that’s used, but that’d still cost $600-900 for a bag in good condition. I couldn’t commit to it. I started to feel guilty.

I felt guilt because I work with people every day who are unable to provide themselves and their families with a basic necessity that everyone is so deserving of: food. I’ve never been hungry without being able to satisfy my hunger, and to know people in my own backyard (figurative, not literal) have bare cupboards, well, it makes me struggle to find satisfaction in material things. I volunteer at a shelter where fifty to sixty adults sleep on cots in the same room every night. They might have one outfit to their name when they first arrive. They have to have toiletries given to them because they can’t afford them. I know undocumented immigrants who are fearful they will be torn apart from their families and won’t send their kids to school in case there’s an ICE raid. And to come home every night to my apartment fully furnished, fridge and freezer stocked to capacity, and more clothes than any one person needs, I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost focus of what is really important to me.

Truthfully, the Neverfull purse is okay, but I have much cheaper purses that are cuter. It’s just that I’ve been conditioned. I’m conditioned to believe that because of the brand name, suddenly the item becomes awe-worthy. I’m a bit tired of it. I have never really been one to follow the trends, but sometimes I want to be #basic with the baddies across the land.

I’m the first one to say I like nice things. I have more shoes than days in the year! Every closet in my apartment is packed full, and I have six additional large containers of clothing in my room. But I feel justified because I only shop on sale (well, unless it’s something I really like and feel I can’t live without—it happens less than you’d think!). But I’m starting to fear that instead of me having nice things, nice things have me.

I’m concerned. Not just for me, but for everyone and our future. I am worried we all have our own “Louis Vuitton Neverfull gm” in our lives that keeps us up at night. I’m fearful we are all lusting after items and not lusting after interpersonal relationships, or after helping a stranger in need, and that we’re so consumed with material things that life is just an ongoing race to get the newest, or biggest, or most expensive whatever. If we continue to be self-righteous, self-serving, self-centered snobs, our future is futile.

Are any of these hypotheticals you?: I wanna say “Black Lives Matter,” but I’m so consumed by the knee-high boots the lady next to me is wearing. I really want to support DACA, but can I support you all while I’m on a cruise to Puerto Vallarta? I want to change the world, but I really want my IG selfie to go viral. I want to love others, but I think I love things more.

If you can relate to one or more of those, you aren’t alone. But ultimately, I think a choice needs to be made. The “Treat Yo’ Self” lifestyle is fun, but when you work with homeless or hungry families every day, material things just don’t seem so exciting anymore. I really want to make a difference in the world and I don’t want to be distracted by items that have a dollar value, and aren’t priceless like a person’s life. But especially as I start this year, I want to think more about what I can do to help others around me—because I’ve done more than enough to help myself.